What is emotional eating?
Have you ever had a really bad day at work?
And when it was finally time to go home, all you could think about was how awesome it was going to be to finally sit on the couch …
… with a bag or bowl of your favorite snack?
Emotional eating is a real “thing” for a lot of people. It only makes sense, because since the day we were born, we’ve used food for more than just our physical nourishment.
Food is an important part of our holidays and celebrations. It can help define our family heritage. And it obviously comforts and nurtures us.
So it makes sense that we use it to soothe our emotions when we’re feeling down. (Or even “up.”)
Being aware of all of that is a big part of intuitive eating.
When you observe your patterns and habits, you can be more intentional in your choices instead of falling back into bad habits and old patterns.
You can actually have control over what you eat, vs. it controlling you.
Why do we eat when we feel down?
This is a complicated topic, but negative feelings can leave you feeling empty or disconnected – as if there’s a big hole or void. It’s uncomfortable.
So we can eat to try to fill it.
Here are some hallmarks of emotional hunger:
- The hunger comes on quickly.
- You are only craving certain kinds of foods.
- You don’t feel full, even if you’ve eaten a lot.
- You feel guilty or have regret later.
Over time, emotional eating can turn into a pattern or habit, so you don’t even know you’re doing it.
If you want to get a handle on your emotional eating, here are some tips:
1. When you feel like eating, ask yourself WHY. Are you truly hungry, or are you feeling stressed, bored, sad, lonely, or angry?
2. If you’re not physically hungry, shift your mindset. Take a break and do something different: go for a walk, journal, take a bath, reach out to a friend or supportive family member (maybe even make a phone call!), or do something creative.
3. Be gentle with yourself – congratulate yourself on noticing your patterns!
Remember – this is not about “bad” or “good.” It’s about embracing health and listening to your body’s true needs.